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So far Geraldine Foley has created 66 entries.

We have moved!

Our new offices are in 20 Kingsway – fourth floor, room KSW4.01 and KSW4.02.

As well as physcially moving we have moved departments from IMT to APD and will be working closely with our colleagues in the Teaching and Learning Centre.

Our email address is staying the same so if you have any queries please contact us via lti.support@lse.ac.uk

Moodle refresh for 2018/19

Each year, Moodle courses are refreshed to remove old student data and prepare for the next cohort of students.

For 2018 the refresh will take place on:

Tuesday 14 August and Wednesday 15 August 2018.  Moodle will be unavailable all day for all users.

Tuesday 11th September 2018 for courses used to collect dissertation submissions (primarily those with 499 course codes).  These courses will be unavailable on Moodle all day.

Current staff and students will need to take action to ensure they have all the information they need from Moodle before the refresh take effect.  More information about the process can be found on our website:
http://lti.lse.ac.uk/moodle-end-of-year-arrangements/

If you have any queries email lti.support@lse.ac.uk

Going digital

Geraldine Foley, Assistant Learning Technologist and Athina Chatzigavriil, Senior Learning Technologist share their thoughts on Learning from Digital Examinations – 26th April 2018 conference.

Learning from Digital Examinations, a one day conference organized by Brunel University brought together practitioners form different universities across the country and from abroad. It was a great opportunity to share best practices, lessons learnt and provided detailed examples of the complexities involved with digital examinations as well as some of the potential benefits.

Students are used to typing their work electronically and the majority have their own devices, yet when it comes to exams at LSE and elsewhere in the UK the standard expectation is to hand-write responses for final examinations. This is due to multiple reasons including; infrastructure, regulations, spaces and facilities. However, some universities have started to shift to electronic examinations and so we went along to find out more and to present on the pilot projects we have done here at LSE (more details below).

Brunel University commenced research of digital examinations in 2015. They used WISEflow, a platform provided by the Danish based company UNIWise. They used students’ own devices Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and implemented 1 exam (115 students) in 2016. Following a successful proof of concept with this one exam they moved to a pilot with 1300 students in 2016/17. Since then the university moved to a staged implementation of the assessment platform in September 2017. WISEflow was the highlight platform for digital examinations but also Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) of the conference.

There were quite a few institutions at the conference that have already moved wholesale to typed examinations while others are still starting out. Moreover there seems to be a greater interest among institutions to move towards EMA approaches to assessment and not only typed instead of handwritten examination. Line Palle Andersen described how staff at University College Copenhagen, Denmark use WISEflow to support flows of other forms of assessment (such as oral, MCQs etc.) and how their staff are involved in marking and feedback provision taking advantage of the extensive feedback features available.

The full conference programme and the presentation slides can be viewed online but some general themes and questions over the day are discussed here.

  • Bring your own device (BYOD)

    Space and facilities tend to be limited in HE so the majority of institutions appear to be adopting the BYOD approach. In Norway and Denmark where the move to typed exams was a nation-wide project it is mandatory for all students to have a device for their studies. UK universities using the BYOD approach provide support for those that do not have their own devices such as loans and grants with a small number of devices for those that experience problems on the day of exams.

  • Student training and support are essential… and students can help!

    Students need chances to test out and get used to any new system or approach. Unsurprisingly those students that didn’t go to support sessions tended to be the ones that needed more support. Brunel University employed students as assistant learning technologists to run drop in support sessions leading up to the examinations so students could install and test out the software on their devices and they also worked with invigilators to offer technical support during the exams. This model has been used successfully in Demark and Norway too. Dr Liz Masterman from the University of Oxford presented on the literature review that looked at studies from 2000 onwards on typed exams to assess the equivalence on the psychological and academic aspects of moving from handwritten to typed examinations. The various studies surveyed yielded inconsistent results; nevertheless, the findings prompt a number of questions for consideration when moving essay-based examinations to typed ones.

  • Change requires strong project management

    Assessment processes involve multiple stakeholders and facilitators; professional support staff, admin staff, estates, IT, academic staff, students, and invigilators all need to be involved, informed and on-board in order to move successfully to digital assessment. Learning technology and Educational development staff have a critical role in working with academics to ensure that they engage with the process and don’t just replicate existing practice. Moving online should present an opportunity to design assessment that is in-line with the course learning outcomes, with clear links between the formative and summative assessments and is balanced across the course.

  • Electronic assessment may lead to more inclusive assessment

    Dr Torben K Jensen on his keynote talking about the reason for which universities should digitise examinations raised the ‘generation argument’ in terms of fairness; handwritten exams are far from students’ every day activities. Making spell checkers, screen readers, remote assessment and other assistive technology available to everyone can reduce the need for individual adjustments. More work is needed to find out the impact of moving to electronic assessment, but Brunel University reported that they received no appeals with regards to moving to electronic exams. As mentioned above changing assessment can provide an opportunity to rethink assessment and even move away from examinations. Many institutions demonstrated digital assessment in various forms, including oral presentations, video submissions, multiple choice questions, simulations and group projects.

  • Feedback can be electronic too!

    Feedback on work in HE has been similarly slow to move to electronic form and yet handwritten comments are often hard to read and slow to produce and distribute compared to typed comments. Many institutions moving to electronic assessments are shifting the entire process online. Professor Denise Whitelock from the Open University presented the final keynote on the various ways that technology can be used to train and support teachers to give useful and supportive feedback. She has been involved in creating several automated feedback tools for students and highlighted the importance feedback can have on students’ learning.

Pilot e-exams at LSE

Our presentation focused on three past LSE pilots that took place in order to:

  • Explore students’ perceptions of typing versus handwriting exams.
  • Test out online examination software
  • Evaluate the requirements for online examinations including: security, regulations, facilities, training and support.

All three pilots were for formative assignments which provided feedback for final examinations. In each case various software were compared and the departments made the final selection for the platforms used in-line with their individual requirements.

Two of the pilots were in the Law department for take home mock examinations using the software Examsoft which allowed students to access examination questions and type 1 essay response from a choice of 3 within 2 hours.  Students were given 5 working days to access the questions and it was up to them to find a suitable space to type their response (see full report here).

The third pilot was with the Government department for a mock on campus invigilated examination using the software Exam4 (see full report here). Students brought their own devices to type 4 essays questions (from a choice of 16) within 3 hours. Exam questions were given in hard copy format with extra information provided to invigilators. In both cases students were given opportunities to test out the software in advance.  Both pilots were evaluated with questionnaires and focus groups with students and feedback from staff.

Overall students welcomed the typed examinations and many appreciated producing a typed script which was more legible for examiners to read some students, but some had concerns about the expectations of examiners who might assume typed answers required better quality answers even though they were produced under exam conditions. Several students found editing their examination answers was easier when typing, but others felt penalized by their slow typing skills. Some students believed the cognitive process of typing an exam answer differed to handwriting one and that grammar and spelling errors were less easy to spot when typing. The identified institutional implications for scaling up typed examinations, include substantial overhaul of the regulations, provision in case students cannot use their own device and adequate student support and training.  The full evaluation reports of the pilots can be found on LSE Research online.

Next steps

The conference gave lots of detailed examples of the complexities involved with digital assessment as well as some of the potential benefits. Going forward at LSE, the Assessment Service Change Project (ASCP), led by Cheryl Edwardes, Deputy Head of Student Services, is collaborating with staff and students to design enhanced assessment processes and systems which incorporate best practice and expert knowledge from across the School community and wider HE sector. If you wish to learn more and/or share your views you can sign up to attend any of the Validation Workshops. Moreover, the Assessment Working Group, led by Dr Claire Gordon, Head of Teaching and Learning Centre are taking forward work on the following areas: i) assessment principles, ii) good practice in assessment design, iii) inclusive practice in assessment, and iv) quality assurance and regulatory arrangements in assessment. Also, the Law department are currently trialing a small-scale proof of concept exam using DigiExam with ipads and keyboards – providing devices for students.

LTI is involved in all the above initiatives and support courses and programmes in the use of electronic assessment and are working with several departments to move their processes online.  Please contact LTI.Support@lse.ac.uk if you would like to discuss this further with us.

Co-creativity and collaboration

It’s been a playful few weeks in LTI, starting with Chrissi Nerantzi from Manchester Metropolitan University presenting a workshop on playful and creative learning in HE.

Chrissi’s workshop was full of exercises designed to get people moving, thinking and talking with others. She started off by pointing out that being creative doesn’t always mean coming up with something completely original, as remixing, adapting and taking ideas into another context is also creative.  We discussed the fact that the majority of learning theories omit the emotional and physical aspects of the learning process.  We were asked to think about what we enjoy about teaching and also to discuss our failures and what went wrong for us when teaching recently.  Talking this through with another person and getting feedback on what intervention would help was very useful and illustrated that we probably don’t spend enough time sharing and getting feedback on failure and yet this is where we can learn the most.

Chrissi recognised that sometimes it can be hard to make large scale change in institutions and gave some personal examples of the barriers and blockers that she has experienced but she also demonstrated that by taking a playful approach to your teaching and making small changes you can create a positive environment which encourages learners to experiment, be creative, try things out and get feedback.

Following on the theme of play and creativity, this week I went up to Coventry University to attend RemixPlay2, a summit to celebrate the design and application of all things gameful, playful and creative in Higher Education. This is the second year of the event hosted by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab in Coventry University (see my blog post on last years’ event).  This year’s focus was on co-creativity and collaboration.  With similar messages to Chrissi’s workshop on taking an experiential approach to learning by doing, there were a lot of examples of how playful activities and games can be embedded within courses.

Ross Flatt from the Institute of Play in New York has worked with a lot of teachers to transform their practice and was an advocate of involving students in the design process and using games as tools for assessment.  Sylvester Arnab’s in his keynote argued that the word ‘Fail’ should be defined as ‘First, Attempt In Learning’. He has worked with staff and students on several interdisciplinary projects to try and solve problems in the community.  Sylvester has found that by giving students a sense of purpose and encouraging them to think creatively about how they can use what they have learnt to change the world for the better, they are more likely to engage and be motivated to learn.  Changing assessment to problem or project based tasks provides students with an intrinsic motivation and shifts the focus away from learning just for passing exams.

Both events provided a lot of inspiration and ideas on the ways we can transform teaching and assessment to be more creative and collaborative.  If you are interested in finding out more about using games for learning, we are holding a workshop on designing games for learning on Monday 26 February book a place via the training and development system.

We are starting a community of practice for anyone at LSE who is interested in playful and game-based learning in HE. If you are interested in joining please contact LTI.Support@lse.ac.uk.

If you have an idea on how to make your teaching more playful, creative or game based and would like some funding to support the implementation and evaluation we are currently accepting proposals for Spark and Ignite grants, the deadline for applications is Friday 2nd March, contact s.ney@lse.ac.uk for more information or to discuss your idea.

Active lectures

So as per last week’s blog post, recording your lectures is beneficial to students and should not negatively impact on lecture attendance but what will help increase lecture attendance?

Between MT 2015 and LT 2017, academic developers from the Teaching and Learning Centre co-convened and reported on a series of focus groups with students in 8 departments across the School to learn more about students’ experiences. These focus groups found that LSE students value:

Lectures that are inspiring and motivating

‘…I’m listening to him and he’s showing his enthusiasm for the topic and his research, and I’m sitting there thinking this is stimulating me and I want to know more about this’.


Lectures that are well structured

‘A good lecture is structured and I see the structure from the start.’


Lectures in which students understanding is checked

‘every lecturer that I have, they just talk at you, and there is no chance to make sure that you know what you need to know, or that you understand stuff.’

‘…  Because sometimes a lecturer is in flow and you don’t want to just disrupt it … But when he just pauses and asks ‘This is good time now to ask your question’ – I think that’s very valuable.’

‘…  something he does that I really like is that when he’s concluding a bit of material he’s trying to get through, he does say ‘Do you have any questions on this?’ and nearly every time there isn’t anything, but you know it gives me an opportunity to think ‘Actually have I understood that properly?’ and ‘This would be an appropriate time.’  


Lectures that are interactive and not too long

‘You go there and you sit: it’s a very passive process. I think lectures need to be more active. Not in the sense of asking questions but in the sense of doing … I’m fed up with being talked to for hours.’

Rethinking the lecture  

As many institutions shift towards opt out lecture recording (see post from last week) there also appears to be a move away from the standard model of lecturing and a move towards an active blended learning approach.


Technology can often help facilitate this for example:

This interactive model will present some issues that institutions need to consider including:

  • Gaining consent from students to be recorded or ways to edit or stop and start recordings easily.
  • Rethinking learning spaces

LTI have been working with Estates, AV and TLC to renovate learning spaces and have been working on various projects to evaluate the type of learning spaces (furniture, technology and layout) best suited for collaborative or flexible teaching approaches.  We have also been working with estates to create signage to inform staff and students that recording is taking place and will be working with AV to investigate more agile recording systems that allow lecturers to stop and start recording in the room.

If you would like some advice and support on how to use technology in your teaching contact LTI.  Calls are currently open for LTI grant projects including those that have themes of innovative use of space and transforming your teaching with technology.  See the LTI website for more information.

References

Armellini, A (2018, Jan 11) ‘The large lecture theatre is dead’

retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/the-large-lecture-theatre-is-dead-11-jan-2018

Bates, S.P., Howie, K. & Murphy, A. St J. (2006) The use of electronic voting systems in large group lectures: challenges and opportunities. New Directions 2 (Dec) 1-8.

Cornish, A (2017, August 3) ‘Vermont Medical School Says Goodbye To Lectures’ 

retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/08/03/541411275/vermont-medical-school-says-goodbye-to-lectures

Huxham, M. (2005) Learning in lectures: do ‘interactive windows’ help? Active Learning in Higher Education 6 (1) 17-31.

Revell, A. & Wainwright, E (2009) What makes lectures ‘unmissable’? Insights into teaching excellence and active learning.
Journal of Geography in Higher Education 33 (2) 209-223.

Roger, K., Ney, S & Liote, L. (2016) Teaching spaces design and development at LSE: an evaluation of impact on teaching and learning. London: The London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

Impact and student use of lecture recording

Lecture recording is becoming more established in Higher Education with 71% of institutions reporting using it in 2016 (UCISA, 2016) and many moving towards an opt out system.

At LSE an increasing number of courses are using lecture recording to support students.  In 2016/17, 6445 lectures were recorded (a 12.7% rise in recordings from 2015/6) and with over 5000 recordings already completed this academic year we are on track to record an additional 25% more content for 2017/18.

Despite the expansion in the use of lecture recording there is still a concern amongst some academic staff that recording lectures will lead to a decrease in lecture attendance.  These Academics should be relieved to hear about the results of a recent study at the University of Aberdeen by Emily Nordmann, Colin Calder, Paul Bishop, Amy Irwin and Darren Comber, published in January 2018 the team found “no evidence for a negative effect of recording use, or that attendance and recording use were related”.   The study spanned four years of an Undergraduate programme in order to review the impact of attendance, lecture recording and student attainment.  They concluded that lecture recordings were the most beneficial for first year undergraduates, particularly non native speakers.  Weaker students gained from supplementary use of recordings but only the stronger students were able to use the recordings to overcome the impact of low attendance.  These differences were not present in the second year onwards as “attendance and recording use were positively correlated with, but no longer predictive of, achievement”.

Students’ use of lecture capture
These findings have been reinforced by recent analysis of LSE lecture recording statistics and interviews and surveys with LSE students for five core first year undergraduate courses.

The study carried out by student research assistants for LTI found that:

  • the majority of students watch the whole lecture once and then repeat and re-watch at points of difficulty with the number of views for this purpose being significantly higher for quantitative subjects
  • Very few students used lecture recordings as a replacement for attendance, preferring to use it as a revision tool or where they had valid reasons to miss the lecture (such as a clash). This complementary role for lecture recording came through very strongly in the quantitative data;

This [lecture recording] is still far more useful than merely having the lecture to depend on – I’ve literally watched certain parts of a lecture 6-8 times just to make sure I absolutely understand the content of the lecture. I usually watch each lecture at least twice as well”.

(Comment from EC102 student, EC102, is the most watched course in the School, with students watching each lecture on average seven times over the academic year.  The most watched lecture was Week 11 of EC210 which was watched just over 5000 times.)

This use of lecture recordings to supplement lecture attendance is not restricted to the Social Sciences.  In 2013 Peter Reed conducted a survey on lecture recording with 840 students at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool.  He found 92% of respondents wanted to be able to access recordings to clarify aspects they didn’t understand in class, and 87% would use them to prepare for summative assessment. Accessing recordings instead of going to lectures was of interest to only a small proportion of students (7%).

Additionaly an LTI literature review in 2013 illustrated that students in most studies preferred access to live lectures, with most preferring a blended format incorporating lecture recordings, live lectures, course materials and additional classes.


Lecture recording at LSE

At LSE the Echo360 lecture recording system is currently installed in 43 rooms.  Teachers that are timetabled to lecture in a room with recording devices installed are able to schedule lecture recording on LSEForYou, if the teacher opts in the recordings are automatically recorded and can be made available to students on Moodle using the Echo360 Activity.

The recording displays the audio and video of the screen/visualiser in classrooms and the projector and presenter in larger lecture theatres.  See the LTI website for a list of room with lecture capture devices.


Next steps for lecture recording at LSE

LTI are working with AV and IMT to improve the quality of lecture recordings and are currently working on creating various resources to help lecturers to use lecture recording facilities.

IMT AV recently upgraded the hardware in Clements House lecture rooms in order to improve audio and video quality.  There are further development plans for lecture recording capable rooms starting with 32LIF which is due for an upgrade over the easter break.  Longer term the new LSE buildings should increase the capacity for lecture recording.

LTI are also working with various teams around the school such as timetables and LFY to solve the inability to automatically schedule seminars that are taught in a lecture style. We are hopeful to have this resolved for the next Michaelmas term.

Alongside making constant improvements to the system we are also looking to innovate lecture recording and encourage lecturers to think about how they could use recordings in different ways inclusing using personal capture to produce online resources to support face to face activities.  Part two of this post will look at how technology can be used to rethink your lectures and make them more engaging and interactive.

If you are interested in using lecture recording see our website for guides and FAQ’s and if you have any queries please email: IMT.Lecturerecording@lse.ac.uk

 

References

Bond, Steve and Grussendorf, Sonja (2013), Staff Attitudes to Lecture Capture. The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

Grummett, D and Appleby-Donald, E (2016, June 1) ‘Does lecture capture enhance learning?’

retrieved from University of Edinburgh http://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/?p=526

Karnad, Arun (2013) Student use of recorded lectures: a report reviewing recent research, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

Kuepper-Tetzel, C (2017, December 07) ‘Lecture attendance, lecture recordings and student performance; A complex, but noteworthy relationship’  [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2017/12/07-1

Nanfeldt, K (2017, September 7) ‘Lecture Recording: What does research say about its effect on attendance?’ [Blog post]. Retrieved from Teaching matters-blog, University of Edinburgh http://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/?p=1972

Nordmann, E., Calder, C., Bishop, P., Irwin, A., & Comber, D. (2017, November 10) ‘Turn up, tune in, don‘t drop out: The relationship between lecture attendance, use of lecture recordings, and achievement at different levels of study.’ Retrieved from psyarxiv.com/fd3yj

Rana, Y (2017) ‘All Edinburgh lectures to be recorded from September 2017’ (blog post) retrieved from https://thetab.com/uk/Edinburgh/2016/10/03/lectures-recorded-September-2017-26019

Reed, P ‘What do students want out of lecture capture?’ 2013, November 15) (blog post) retrieved from http://thereeddiaries.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/what-do-students-want-out-of-lecture.html

Rios-Amaya, J.. Secker, J. and Morrison, C. (2016) Lecture recording in higher education: risky business or evolving open practice LSE / University of Kent.

Von Konsky, B.R., Ivins, J. and Gribble, S.J. (2009) Lecture attendance and web based lecture technologies: A comparison of student perceptions and usage patterns Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2009, 25(4), 581-595.

Delete and declutter

It’s coming up to the start of term and time to get Moodle courses ready for the new cohort of students. We have refreshed most courses and upgraded to the new theme so it’s the perfect time to clear out old material, delete and de-clutter!

The LTI Moodle audit identified many issues with layout and structure that could easily be rectified by following our suggestions below.

 

 

Common issues and how to solve them:

Poor structure

Many courses consist of one long messy list with content hard to find and often current material is hidden at the bottom of the page.

  • Consider a different course format. Perhaps the grid or collapsed topics if you have lots of content.
  • It may be worth hiding and revealing content as the course progresses so students see the most current information at the top of the page.  You can also highlight the most current section by clicking on the light bulb on the right hand side.
  • If you have lots of material on the same topic then it might be worth consolidating it into a Moodle page or Book.
  • Consider the order that you present material to students – you might want to move sections around so important information is at the top of the page and is quicker and easier to find.
  • You might want to add a table of contents block with links to each section highlighted.
  • When using the grid format Images can provide visual clues and signposts to students as to the type of material each section contains.

Inconsistent titles

Once you have chosen your course format make sure that you have consistent titles for each section or topic.

  • Try to use titles that are clear and descriptive rather than the default section 1, section 2.
  • Remember that you can add labels to clearly sign post material.
  • You can also use the text editor to add colour, or different text size if you want to emphasise certain text.
  • If you have a large course you may want to use the groups and groupings features on Moodle to ensure student can differentiate and access between the various resources and assignments.

Too much clutter

Many courses have old material hidden that dates back years and can clutter the page for editors – don’t be afraid to delete things!

  • Moodle now has a recycle bin so things can be restored within seven days if deleted in error.  LTI also keep back up copies of all courses every year and retain them in an archive so your current course does not have to contain a historical record of old course files.
  • If you have lots of sections that are not in use then delete them, you can always add more sections later.

Broken links
  • Check that the links on your course still work, if you are linking to LSE reading lists make sure you use the reading list activity and if you are linking to lecture recordings you will need to use the Echo360 activity and make sure that you have consented for your lectures to be recorded on LFY.

Deadlines and dates
  • Make sure that your course start date is correct in the Edit Course settings, this is especially important if you are using the weekly format.
  • Ensure that any dates and deadlines are up to date and check your settings if you are using the assignment activity.

Check enrolments

Automatic enrolments are now active on Moodle, so when students make course choices in LSE for You, they will automatically be enrolled in the corresponding Moodle course.  Choices for 2017/18 made by continuing students have already been processed.

Check your course is set up for automatic enrolment. This can be done by going into the settings: Administration block > Edit Settings. If the “Course ID number” field is empty. Please contact Lti.support@lse.ac.uk.

If using alternative methods of enrolment please check that they have been set up properly. This can be done by looking in the Administration block > Users > Enrolment methods.

Teaching staff may still be enrolled on the course from previous years.  Email LTI to remove any enrolments that are no longer accurate.

Lastly remember to make your course visible to students.  Even if students are enrolled on your course they will not see it in their list of courses or be able to access it if it is still hidden in the edit settings.

New look Moodle for 2017/18!

We hope you like the new look of Moodle and can find you way around. When you first log in you will taken to your dashboard

On your first access you should see a tour which takes you through the new layout.  Also see our online guide on finding your way around.

If you are a Moodle editor we have devised some new guides to get you going and we have updated our FAQ’s for staff and students.

If you really don’t like the new look you can change it back, just follow our instructions on our website.

We are running Moodle basics training for Moodle editors on Tuesday 22 August and Wednesday 20 September. Book a place via the Training and Development System.

Remember that all courses are automatically hidden after the refresh so you need to make them visible to students before the start of term.

Moodle refresh for 2017

Moodle will be unavailable all day on Tuesday 15 August and Wednesday 16 August for all users, and on 12th September for courses used to submit dissertations.

Don’t forget: you must download any information and documents you will need from Moodle before the refresh date that applies to your course. Course content will not be available to you after these dates.

See the LTI website for further details: http://lti.lse.ac.uk/moodle-end-of-year-arrangements/

 

Jack of all trades…

“What do you do?” *Deep breath*, “I’m an academic technologist”. *Blank stare*, “So, what do you do?”. *Deep breath* [attempts to explain]. I have had this conversation regularly with family, friends and people who work outside of the ‘biz’. If I had a pound… That, I find, is increasingly difficult to define.

 “I help teaching staff use technology in their teaching”

This was my go to answer. Recently I find this answer woefully simplistic.

At its core the above description is a fair representation of my job. Essentially that’s what I’m here to do. I am here to help staff to use technology in teaching. In the rose-tinted world of what I’d like my job to be that’s what I’d be doing day-to-day. In reality my day-to-day job is much more indirect than the above implies.

Jack of all trades (and master of none)

^ that’s how I feel a lot of the time. What I find reassuring is that I am not the only person who feels like a fraud. In 2001 Helen Beetham conducted a study of learning technologists and others in similar roles/responsibilities and identified the 10 activities below (the original report seems to no longer be available). I will now explain what the 10 activities mean to me.

Actively seek to keep abreast of developments in learning technologies

So we have to keep ‘abreast’ of developments in the technologies we already have, such as new features, upgrades and enhancements, as well as emerging technologies. Essentially we have to be able to ‘see what’s coming’ and from that decide what’s going to be worth looking in to. Considering the exponential growth of technology that is no easy feat.

Facilitate access to learning technology expertise and services

So we have to make sure the technologies are actually working and, if the mighty Odin looks upon you favourably, they work well. It includes organising downtime for upgrades etc. which largely involves paperwork and discussions about when the best date would be. This is always followed by the realisation that we’ll have to inconvenience someone and we need to find the people who would be least inconvenienced. We need people to know we’re here so we search for every possible way to shove our faces in to other people’s faces and screech “we’re here to help”. We also have to ‘advertise’ the services we offer and the technologies we offer. Again, much head scratching and many conversations are had about how exactly to do that. We make a website and redo it fifty times because no-one seems to be looking at it so it must be the website’s fault.

Some learning technologists are software and web developers some are network and server engineers. Some are all of the above. So not only do they do all this stuff but they also MAKE and MAINTAIN it!? There’s another post in here somewhere about how techy you need to be but we have no time for that here.

Liaise and collaborate with other units in the university having related interests & objectives

So this includes the Library, Student Careers and Skills, Learning Development, HR, Registrars Office, Health and Safety, Quality, Estates, Accommodation, International Office, Student Support, Wellbeing, Security, Finance etc… There are a whole load more that I could add. Now to be clear, we don’t always work with these people because they are active users of our tech. Sometimes we work with them because what we do overlaps considerably. We might want to consult them, get their opinion or help and vice versa. What they are doing affects us and vice versa. Although, working with professional services to create learning materials is an increasing area of work for us.

Act as consultant, mentor or change agent for other staff

I would like to do ^ this more.  Working directly with individuals to achieve their teaching goals, acting as coach/mentor, is a time-consuming but effective way to bring about change. A lot of the time I act more as a consultant. Someone wants to do something and you’re there to say how best to achieve it. Then I equip them with the skills they need and step away. I want people to be self-sufficient, I don’t think technology is worth using if they need to have their hands held, but I do enjoy the direct contact. I just don’t have time to do that enough.

Advise and assist with introduction of new technology into learning & teaching programmes

This is easiest when people have something they want to do. What’s more difficult is getting people to do something they have no interest in. This is where we earn our money. Finding that ‘hook’. We are usually involved in one or all of the procurement, project board, change management, project management processes etc. We gather the evidence for needs analysis, we write the budget requests and project documentation. It’s not as simple as seeing something fun and clicking install. Great Odin’s raven, it’s not that easy.

Increase colleagues’ awareness of best practice in learning technologies

^ see above. Training, advertising, consultancy etc. We also need to know best practice ourselves. This is achieved by keeping up with developments in the sector. Projects, initiatives, case studies, blogs, conferences, literature etc and we have to do this whilst doing everything else. Oh and that’s not just in relation to technology, that’s pedagogy too. You shouldn’t look at technology in isolation. I feel you must have a strong grounding in pedagogy. Technology and pedagogy are not separate they are inextricably linked.

Enable exchange of ideas and experience in technology-based learning and teaching

This is the ‘little black book’ of learning technologists (usually kept in our head). Our list of people/authors/blogs/articles/case studies, our arsenal of evidence and experience, we call on that list when someone says “I’d like to…”. So we trawl our mental black book for something relevant. We tell them about the people/authors/blogs/articles/case studies they should look at or talk to. We put people in touch, sometimes we’ll act as chaperone. If we know someone who’s done something noteworthy we ask them to write a case study/article/blog or present on their work so we can point people at that. We are the enablers.

We run forums, training, workshops, coffee and cake meet ups, lunch and learns etc. in the hope that we might get to know more people. The more people we know the more connections we can make.

Those of us who work within a network of other academic technologists in other departments know how important it is to build a working relationship with them. This is another avenue for adding to the little black book, for gaining feedback and ideas.

Facilitate & support access to computer-based learning resources

We manage the systems, provide the training and consult on the best tools for the job and how to make them.

Consult with support staff on appropriate use of learning technologies

I would remove support staff from this sentence and exchange it for staff and students. Sometimes this feels less like consultation than a witch hunt. We consult with staff, and students (thought not as much as we should) on how to improve current technologies and what they would like to see in the future. If you ask 100 people what they want you’ll get 100 different answers, it also assumes those 100 people know what there is and what is possible. So we also have to evaluate what is possible, what is worth pursuing and what will have widespread benefits. Sometimes it comes across as dismissive but it’s not meant to be. We simply can’t do everything. We take flack. We listen patiently. We try not to take it personally.

Identify needs & opportunities for development/deployment of learning technologies

^ see above. We identify opportunities. We spot where technology will enhance. We see the holes in provision. We plan ahead. We research. We keep our ears to the ground.

Learning technologists are:

Strategists, project managers, helpdesk operatives, 1st, 2nd, 3rd line support, incident managers, problem managers, operation managers, service designers, service managers, change managers, testers, developers, UI designers, web designers, trainers, teachers, writers of guides, makers of screen casts, mediators, enablers, facilitator, mentors, coaches, change agents, friends, enemies, psychics, futurists, clairvoyants, encyclopedias, librarians, experts, academics, support staff, students, writers, authors, researchers, readers, analysts, critics…

Hence, jack of all trades

We wear a lot of different hats and I would say not one hat fits better than the others. I know the bits I enjoy most but I can’t abandon the rest. ^ these are the things we have to do to keep the lights on. It’s not as simple as it first appears.

I help staff to use technology in their teaching, sort of…

Re-posted with permission from author Kerry Pinny – original post published on https://kerrypinny.com/ 09 June 2017